His Manger, My Heart – Together Paper

We have a page published in the Together Paper at the start of each month. You can always read this article via the Wagga Wagga Diocese website, or catch up on it below:

Christmas is known by many monikers: the festive season, the most wonderful time of year.
Commercially speaking, it’s also the most expensive – and over marketed – time of the year.
For many, Christmas is a time of family get-togethers. The busy anticipation of a day – or more –
spent eating good food, drinking good wine, enjoying good company, and good cheer of course.
For some, Christmas this year will be a year of firsts. Perhaps it’s the first Christmas celebrated as a
married couple, following their nuptials earlier this year; the first with a new baby, a child or
grandchild in whose honour Christmas celebrations take on another level of cherished family
milestones; the first Christmas in a new house or the first Christmas in awhile where every member
of the family can be in the same room at the same time.
For others, however, Christmas time can be a time of stark pain or loss. There are families who
gather together and feel keenly the presence of empty seats around their festive table.
The lonely, the grieving, the estranged and uninvited experience afresh the pangs of their hurt as
they suffer through Christmas. Some, their first without loved ones who have passed away since last
year’s festivities; the first Christmas since they quarrelled, irreparably it would seem, with family
members or friends; the first Christmas they did not have enough funds to continue their long
established Christmas traditions; the first Christmas inside the nursing home; the first Christmas
living out of their car because they can’t find affordable housing.
Christmas comes, regardless of our joy or our sorrows.
Just as, on that first Christmas, when Joseph and Mary welcomed our Lord and Saviour following an
arduous journey. Tired and weary, resting in a stable, for there was no room to accommodate them
elsewhere in Bethlehem, they welcomed Jesus in a place far from home and their loved ones. They
had not even a bed for Him, though they improvised, turning a manger into makeshift crib. The
angelic chorus had extended an invitation to the motley crew of shepherds, who travelled to pay
their respects, and the small stable is full to the brim: saints, shepherds and animals in close
Hardly a picture-perfect Christmas.

What’s in a name?

The Prophet Isaiah, of the Old Testament, made several prophetic statements that refer to the
coming of Jesus Christ, including:
“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is
named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall
grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.” (Isaiah
This quote forms part of the readings for the Christmas Night Mass and is used as a preparatory
work in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium for children aged 3-6 years. At first glance, it is
both familiar and perhaps for some, uninspiring.

But here in this reading is the hope, the promise of a Christ-child who will serve us in a myriad of
ways. Wonderful Counsellor will guide us with His Wisdom, He being the most perfect teacher and
His knowledge much greater than that of man; Mighty God will fight for us, defend us against our
enemy and will never surrender; Everlasting Father will exercise His paternity forever, promising us a
home with Him in Heaven once this earthly life is complete; and Prince of Peace will restore our
relationship with God, and usher in a tangible and everlasting peace.
A son has been given to us indeed, a Son of God, and at Christmas we have the opportunity to
welcome Him again.

My heart, His manger

Our hearts are far from perfect. Burdened by the cares of the world, our sorrows and grievances, our
failures and limitations. Like the crib in Bethlehem all those many years ago, our hearts are
imperfect mangers, containing tufts of straw, nibbled by the animals stabled nearby.
Perhaps are hearts are slightly better, or sparsely, padded than those around us. The straw – each
tuft a prayer, an act of devotion or thanksgiving offered to God – varies daily, even hourly as we
struggle through this valley of tears.
But these mangers – our hearts – are capable of providing a place of loving repose for the Lord of
the universe. Despite the lacklustre presentation, craftmanship – or smell – we can open our hearts
and lives in order to welcome again the Baby Jesus. We can cradle Him, delighting in the newborn
promise of a Messiah who humbled Himself out of love for us.
This Christmas, find comfort and hope in the Holy Family, who trusted in God’s providence despite
the apparent inadequacies or underwhelming circumstances. Seek solace and peace, guidance and
strength from the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
Yes, you may still feel the pain of loss over the Christmas season, but you might just experience the
joy of His birth, and His light will guide you out of darkness and into His healing love.
From all the team at Virtue Ministry, may Christmas find you welcoming Our Emmanuel without
reservation, celebrating His birth with your nearest and dearest, and growing in virtue in order to
spread His love to those around you, in the capacity He has gifted you, and you alone.

Written by Emily Shaw

Emily is a former ACPA award winning magazine editor. Emily shares 15 years of marriage with her husband, Ben, and is now stay at home mum of seven and freelance journalist. Emily’s work has been featured in a variety of media internationally, writing on all things faith, parenting and craft. She brings close to 20 years of experience in media — print, online and social — as well as several years in active youth ministry including three years as the Diocesan Coordinator.

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